Premier League Top 4 and Midtable: The ever reducing gap
In his book, World Politics, A.F.K. Organski posited that power transition theory has international politics as a hierarchy to be viewed as a pyramid with the most dominant nations at the top and with an unchallenged hegemony and self serving status quo and great powers behind who are the most likely challengers to the dominant power. They are followed by a lot of bottom feeders who subscribe to the existing status quo and are referred to as ‘weak states’, these weak states can rise through the pyramid and challenge the dominant power’s status quo.
The machtpolitik in the Premier League makes for juicy viewing, there exists a cadre of super clubs of which Manchester United are the sole representatives from England which includes Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munchen. Below these are the noeveau riche and traditional clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and Paris St Germain. There’s an order reminiscent of Freemasonry and it is very hard to break the glass ceiling to progress, see but don’t touch, the Premier League’s bottom feeders are shattering this myth hammer and tongs, in no small part due to the new television money.
The very elite players in Europe don’t match to the number of emerging ‘supposed elite’ clubs and this creates a supply and demand problem, everyone wants a white unicorn and everyone misses out on the speckled stallion at the back of the stable. Genuine world class players are few and far apart, mostly they all play for Bayern Munchen, Barcelona and Real Madrid, the rest of the clubs have a sprinkling or two of quality stardust but they crave their neighbors healthy Kales. Manchester United want Ramos and Muller, Arsenal want Benzema, City might or might not want Pedro but they have been linked, Madrid want De Gea. The common theme in this cycle is the three clubs where all the other clubs seek to shop. The talent drain from the Premier League is a constant, Suarez and Ronaldo to name just two; any genuine stars are linked to the three clubs and in exchange the Premier League asks for it’s discarded albeit top performing stars like Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas all in one summer. This has created an insurmountable gap; the three super clubs have held the rest of the competition at an arms length, members only.
When inevitably the top teams in the Premier League settle for high performing B-list players they squabble and scrum with the high functioning mid table teams who know their level and do their ultimately fruitful shopping early. The overall consequence is that, the quality gap between mid table English teams and their top four counterparts is closing more furiously than envisioned. Andre Ayew would fill a need at United, Yohann Cabaye would seamlessly slot in at Chelsea alongside Nemanja Matic and free Fabregas to beguile further forward and he would immediately solve an itch for Arsenal. Xherdan Shaqiri would stroll beach towel and sunscreen in tow into the Liverpool and Tottenham starting eleven, Georginio Wijnaldum’s boundless energy would add more quality to City than anything Fabian Delph can muster but he resides in Geordie-land, Salamon Rondon would happily fill the second striker role at Old Trafford or even challenge the club Captain but he’s a baggie, Gokhan Inler would have his pick of Manchester City or Arsenal but the tinker man has him instead.
The quality of managers that the top tier teams can pull is the only separating difference on the field, devoid of club stature and club value and this is what will probably keep the top four untouchable. But on the pitch the technical quality of the players mano a mano is neck and neck. Clubs in limbo like Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton who are a class above midtable but several classes below the top four are at the greatest risk, with clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City now enjoying an established niche added onto United and Arsenal they might just disappear over the horizon. While clubs like Southampton, Swansea and Stoke, firmly relegation favorites a while ago but now defiant, bullish, even arrogant mid table sides and with their sights firmly trained on the carrot that is the top four and furiously proactive in the market, Liverpool and fellow associates might just be caught in the whirlwind and flushed even further down the uncertainty abyss.
The mid table clubs are responding in kind, while it would have been a more plausible scenario if the top four were getting superior quality from abroad or within, this is not the case and the ‘weak clubs’ are dredging up more than their fair share of gems downstream while the top four unsuccessfully try to catch Trout upstream in the volatile, rushing waters. It might take a while before the gap is closed but the divide that was once a grand canyon is now but a stone hops away. Parity is being achieved and the top clubs can feel the heat of the stove door just opened, they can see the glaring headlights of the proletariat, mid table nuisance of clubs cannoning off their rearview mirrors, it’s Mad Max Fury Road.
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